Drury Becomes 2nd Democrat, Fourth State’s Attorney Candidate

Highland Park native and former federal prosecutor seeks Lake County job.

Highwood resident and Chicago lawyer Scott Drury, 37, will announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Lake County state’s attorney on Monday, Aug. 8, in a continually growing field to replace incumbent Michael Waller.

Drury’s official announcement will come at a kickoff event at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Cellar Gate in Highwood followed by visits to several sites in Waukegan Tuesday. 

Drury, a Highland Park native, will face Libertyville resident and Lake Forest attorney in the March 20 Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Lake Barrington resident and Waukegan attorney as announced his candidacy as well as Waukegan lawyer and Gurnee resident . 

'Political Establishment'

While Kennedy, Winter and Nerheim have spent most of their careers practicing law in Lake County, Drury has logged most of the last eight years as an assistant U.S. attorney based in Chicago. Lake County is part of the office’s jurisdiction. 

“As a federal prosecutor, it makes me the only candidate not part of the political establishment in Lake County. It will let me make changes without imperiling friendships,” Drury said. “It will let me implement the change that is necessary.” 

Kennedy expressed surprise with Drury’s statement about the Lake County political establishment.

“I can’t imagine he was referring to me,” Kennedy said.

Waller, a Republican, has been in office 22 years. Kennedy said he is a lifelong Democrat, and has lived in Libertyville since 1992. 

Nerheim, one of the Republican candidates, touts his background as an assistant Lake County’s state’s attorney as well as his work on behalf of criminal defendants in the Waukegan courthouse.

“Like him (Drury), I’m a political outsider,” said Nerheim, who has not run for office before.

“Experience in the Lake County Courthouse is important," he continued. "The job of an assistant Lake County state’s attorney is very different from an assistant United States attorney.”

Winter is on vacation and was unable to respond to Patch.

Drury Touts Supervisory Experience

All four candidates have solid background as lawyers with three working as prosecutors — Drury, Kennedy and Nerheim. Drury believes his supervisory efforts as lead prosecutor in a number of cases helps qualify him for the job. 

“As a first chair on trials, I oversaw the work of investigators, agents and other assistant U.S. attorneys,” Drury said. “The state’s attorney is a policymaker.” 

Kennedy has made the centerpiece of his campaign the creation of a conviction integrity unit to make better use of DNA evidence in the aftermath of the Jerry Hobbs case. Winter agrees it is a good idea; Nerheim would appoint a blue-ribbon panel to guard against similar injustices.

Hobbs was arrested in 2005 for the stabbing death of his 8-year-old daughter and another girl in Zion, jailed without bond and held until 2010 when he was cleared because the DNA of another suspect was found at the crime scene.

Favors Criminal Investigations

Drury would rather use the Lake County grand jury to conduct criminal investigations, the preferred method in federal prosecutions. 

“When you run your investigations as a grand jury it involves more privacy. Bad information won’t get out, you won’t follow it and you won’t be stuck with it,” Drury said. “If there are questions you won’t have an innocent man in jail. That is your job.” 

Drury attended the University of California at Berkeley where he was a cum laude graduate in 1995. He also graduated with honors from the Northwestern University Law School in 1998. 

He worked for the Chicago law firm Holleb & Coff, joined Sachnoff & Weaver a year later and went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2003. In June, he returned to Sachnoff & Weaver’s successor, Reed Smith.

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